Writing what you know

Over the trailFor the past couple of Saturdays, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to ride with a group on some pretty awesome Texas horse trails. It’s been a good many years since I’ve ridden all day through rough terrain – but I have done it before. In fact, at one time I actually entertained the thought of training for endurance rides. (For an idea of what that entails you can watch the movie HIDALGO.

Well, actually, there isn’t a race quite that long, but there are long races of a hundred miles and more. Australia has the longest at 250 miles which takes place over 5 days. But I digress.

Riding in an arena or along a well-groomed bridle path is nice, training and competing in the arena is exhilarating, but feeling the power of your horse under you as he climbs a steep, rocky hill just stays with you. You may have heard of mule rides down into the Grand Canyon where riders might be scared out of their wits when the trail narrows to barely wider than the animal’s hooves. But keeping your balance on your steed while he negotiates a rugged descent into a running water creek is even more thrilling. And riding out in the wide open wilderness is pretty close to spiritual.

I’ve experienced all that and more.

I shared a few of my books last weekend after the ride. I little nervous at first, I actually read a section of LEGEND OF THE SUPERSTITION GOLD where Annie and Midnight trek along a particularly dangerous stretch of trail where they slip and fall – into a parallel world; the place where people go when they go missing in the mountains. Very scary! At least that’s what I thought while on a similar trail and my horse and I experienced a rather hair-raising slip into an arroyo (very small canyon-type waterway in the desert).

After the meeting, someone approached me and commented that the fall described in the book sounded quite real and actually gave her a bit of anxiety. She concluded that I must have had that experience to write it so well. I’ve heard that same comment about much of my writing. One person said that my descriptions brought her face to face with the action and she was able to live it right beside my character.

Why?

Because I write what I know. It’s not something I read out of a book, but something I experienced. I say it over and over, and I’ve heard it over and over, you can tell in an instant if the author really knows what he/she is writing about. It’s as different as night and day, a real rose or a fake. Even with a topic the reader doesn’t know well, words that come from an author’s first-hand knowledge jump from the page and carry them away. Words which guess and make gross stabs at a topic unknown by the writer lie dead on the page and leave you feeling like you have worms crawling on your arms!

However, the worst offence – in my opinion – is just plain lying to your readers. I’m sorry folks, but even though it’s a Newberry winner, a young girl cannot carry a moose hide. It weighs nearly a hundred pounds. I know because I own one! And a classic romance novelist might be award winning but in a pigeon cote (house) a real pigeon doesn’t let the water trickle down its throat like a chicken. A pigeon drinks water like a horse, buy sucking water up into its mouth and drinking gulps – very quickly. Yeah, I own those too!

Don’t lie to your readers and don’t leave them flat with wrong information!

Now, this rule absolutely doesn’t apply to genres such as Sci-Fi, which depends upon the outrageous. Nor does it apply to super-heroes, or even heroic quests, where you expect the unbelievable. Besides, most ‘hero’ stories like Superman or The Green Lantern, are more about relationships and maybe conquering personal fears than supernatural abilities or technology. And of course, a certain very popular author who writes police and legal thrillers/dramas has a disclaimer that he writes fiction and therefore is able to take some poetic license with the facts of the courtroom or legal system. BUT – that best-selling author still writes what he knows.

And so do I. That’s why I write about horses.

 

P.S. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my current WIP will not flop like a dead fish in the sun, because it doesn’t have a horse on the planet! They’ve all gone extinct!

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